Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Accessibility Problems with Microsoft Office Open XML

Stephen A. Hockema and Jutta Treviranus from the Adaptive Technology Resource Centre have written a thoughtful analysis of accessibility issues for the disabled with the Microsoft Office Open XML format. This is timely as OOXML is proposed as an international standard. Essentially Stephen and Jutta argue the world would be better off improving the existing ODF standard, than creating a new one. This is a point of view I agree with.
There are grave issues with respect to the accessibility of Office Open XML as a format and potential standard that should preclude its adoption at present. It may be the case that OOXML can be improved to ameliorate some of the more specific technical concerns, but it is most likely too late for the higher-level issues, especially those inherent in the process by which OOXML was developed. We suggest that energy would be better spent in the ongoing effort to improve the existing ISO ODF standard (with which OOXML would overlap and compete if it is adopted). In any event, decisions with respect to standardized document formats should be made in consultation with members of disability communities, disabilities experts and developers of assistive technologies, with universal accessibility as a core requirement as opposed to an ad hoc afterthought.

From: Accessibility Issues with Office Open XML, Stephen A. Hockema
Jutta Treviranus, Adaptive Technology Resource Centre, University of Toronto, 2007

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